Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Long-neglected chronic conditions finally come into the spotlight

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New Scientist:

POST-VIRAL syndromes received little medical attention for decades, until the covid-19 pandemic triggered tens of millions of cases of long covid, leading to massive research efforts.

This week, we report on the growing evidence that long-term conditions like myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) are caused, wholly or in part, by viral infections (see “We’re starting to understand how viruses trigger chronic conditions”). Researchers have drawn links between ME/CFS and some herpes viruses, which infect us at a young age and stay in the body for the rest of our lives. There is also evidence that viruses play a role in fibromyalgia, a little-understood form of chronic pain.

Any improvement in our knowledge of these conditions is good news for those affected, of whom there are millions around the world.

How did such life-altering conditions come to be so neglected? It may be significant that they are more common in women than men, especially middle-aged women. One can’t help but suspect that there was some sexism, however inadvertent, in doctors’ tendencies to dismiss symptoms as psychosomatic. Even today, people with autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis, which are also far more common in women, often wait months or years for a diagnosis.

One reason long covid garnered so much attention was that many of the first to get it were medical workers. It seems doctors who might have dismissed strangers with hard-to-explain symptoms were less likely to ignore their colleagues. There is a lesson here about the importance of trusting a patient – one many doctors, happily, are taking to heart.

The media must also take its share of the blame. When ME/CFS was defined in the 1980s, it was casually dismissed by many journalists as “yuppie flu” or hypochondria. This wasn’t just cruel, it was ill-informed: as early as 1994, New Scientist reported research indicating that viruses were the key to ME/CFS. Nearly three decades on, the message is finally getting through.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2023 at 6:25 pm

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